Scientists speak out about inaccurate climate change textbooks, noting that more often than not the language used is creating uncertainty and presenting opinions over scientific facts.
The study, conducted by K.C. Busch and Diego Roman of Stanford University and Southern Methodist University respectively, looked at four of the climate change textbooks in California and analyzed the use of language presenting the accuracy of scientific facts. Unfortunately they reached the conclusion that climate change textbooks are misrepresenting the science. Although they should be science textbooks, science is sidelined, making way for interpretation of debates surrounding climate science.
The research is published in the Environmental Education Research journal. The authors highlighted how through the use of language the climate change textbooks are more intimate with the public debate rather than informing on the scientific facts underpinning climate change.
A few notable examples of language creating uncertainty have been picked by the authors and presented to the public. Language choices in the four climate change textbooks portray the issue as uncertain on several levels. If it’s taken word by word, the way language is used inflicts doubt on whether climate change is happening, whether the human activity is really causing it or not or how disastrous the effects could be.
The textbooks under the limelight are the go to resource for sixth graders in California. All have been written and published in 2007 and 2008. These are Focus on Earth Science (Prentice Hall, 2008), Focus on Earth Science (CPO Science, 2007), Focus on Earth Science (Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, 2007) and Earth Science (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 2007).
Presented to sixth graders in their formative years, the climate change textbooks are prone to influence their thinking on the issue. Considering that 54 percent of American teens declare climate change isn’t happening, while another 43 percent are reluctant to the idea that it is human activity-driven, one of the sources forming these opinions are textbooks.
Of the four climate change textbooks, the authors picked 279 clauses amounting to a total of 2,770 words. None of them were decisive or fact-based on any course of action. May, might, possibly, possible, unclear, some, not at all are common words associated with climate change.
This choice of language is not indicative of scientific facts. It is rather a review of debates and beliefs which do little to help the understanding of the issue. None of the climate change sections in the four climate change textbooks were decisive on ways to address climate change and human response. Moreover, the topic was approached more from a skeptic perspective stating that it ‘might be happening’ or that human activity either may or may not cause climate change.
By comparison, the UN IPCC studies involving over 600 scientists worldwide were not mentioned. Between ‘some scientists argue that climate change isn’t happening’ and the reality of the IPCC where 3 percent of the scientists approach climate change in a moderate fashion, there is a large gap for misinterpretation due to uncertainty.
Scientists speak out about inaccurate climate change textbooks, declaring at the same time that a textbooks should read as an encyclopedia of scientific facts. Declarative sentences with the role of a definition should be the golden rule. However, the four climate change textbooks are brimming with modal verbs or indeterminate quantifiers.
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